A Memorable Image From The Narrative

Booker T. Washington’s autobiography “Up From Slavery” has a strong narrative, and contains many exciting stories.  I have selected what I think is the most memorable image from the narrative.  I will explain why.

In 1881, Washington was offered to take charge of what was to be a normal school for the colored people in the town of Tuskegee Alabama.  Washington took this opportunity.  He spent the first month preparing accommodations for the school, and also traveling through Alabama examining into the life of the people.  He stayed in the homes of these people, as he observed their farms, schools, and churches. In these cabin homes I often found sewing-machines which had been bought, or were being bought, on installments, frequently at a cost of as much as sixty dollars, or showy clocks for which the occupants of the cabins had paid twelve or fourteen dollars. I remember that on one occasion when I went into one of these cabins for dinner, when I sat down to the table for a meal with the four members of the family, I noticed that, while there were five of us at the table, there was but one fork for the five of us to use. Naturally there was an awkward pause on my part. In the opposite corner of that same cabin was an organ for which the people told me they were paying sixty dollars in monthly installments. One fork, and a sixty-dollar organ! In most cases the sewing-machine was not used, the clocks were so worthless that they did not keep correct time—and if they had, in nine cases out of ten there would have been no one in the family who could have told the time of day—while the organ, of course, was rarely used for want of a person who could play upon it.”  Every time I read this I cringe.  These ex-slaves  had not the slightest idea as how to manage their money.  I do not think that these people knew what their financial priorities were.  It is absolutely ridiculous to spend $60 a month on an organ when the whole family shares one fork.  I think that I view debt in the same way as Washington.  Perhaps that is why this story stood out to me the most.

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